International Women’s Day: The State of Women in Technology
In honor of International Women’s Day (IWD) 2020, Sitel Group’s women in technology share stories, insights and advice on tackling gender-bias barriers - and what companies can do to attract more female talent.
International Women’s Day is a global initiative that celebrates the social, economic and cultural achievements of women. This year’s theme, #EachforEqual, poses the question: how can advances in the tech industry challenge stereotypes, fight bias, improve situations and accelerate progress for gender equality?
In today’s digital age, there have never been more opportunities for people to grow and achieve based on their abilities and ideas, rather than their gender. Qualifications, education and background typically dictate whether a role is filled, especially in fast-growth industries, such as artificial intelligence (AI), data analysis and statistical mathematics.
But in the U.S., where women represent more than half of the college-educated workforce, data shows a lack of diversity and equality for women in technology.
A lack of female voices
Despite efforts to increase the number of women working in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), UN data shows that men still dominate leadership in these occupations.
Women bring unique skill sets, strategic thinking and a wealth of experiences that can help drive these innovations – making them an essential part of the talent pool. However, this unequal representation poses a real threat to the future of these technologies and industries.
While women’s voices are out there, they need to be listened to better.
What can companies do to bridge the gap?
So, what changes can organizations make to better support gender balance? “Better communication,” says Sitel Group IT Director, Teresa Ryan. “I think many times there is a misconception that an IT role equals programmer. Representation of all the various IT fields in schools at a young age would garner more interest in the field for both men and women.”
Ryan credits her career in IT to being inspired by her father’s analytical mind.
And she acknowledges that she’s a minority in their field – for the moment, at least. “I do see a higher percentage of men than women in the various IT roles,” says Ryan. “I’m sure there are many reasons behind this, but out of those, I have to believe that one is that women tend to be the primary caregivers in their homes.”
Organizations that offer flexible and remote work opportunities can help to address this issue. It’s one of the reasons why Sitel Senior Project Manager IT, Jessica Atkinson, has been able to continue building her career in the U.S. while residing in Panama.
However, flexibility is just one element. Atkinson emphasizes that we need people to engage with potential and existing employees and promote ideas for career advancement. “I wanted to participate in a month to highlight women and to encourage anyone looking for a way to accelerate their career to consider working towards a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification,” says Atkinson. “The only requirement is investing in yourself.”
According to the women, the prejudice persists today – even if it is to a lesser degree. But even with prejudices removed and with access to more qualifications and training, companies also have a responsibility to create the right environment that helps and encourages people to progress.
“Support from your peers is crucial, especially when first entering the field,” says Ryan. “I highly recommend fostering an open team environment with subject matter experts available for guidance.”
And of course, organizations also need to demonstrate that they hire, support and promote based on a person’s ability to do a job, not their gender. “We need to continue to promote IT leadership roles for both men and women,” says Sitel VP IT Customer Success, Debra Renken. “Sitel’s current leadership is open to hire whomever has the right talent for the position, whether that be male or female.”
Adapt to attract top talent
Companies must be able to give responsibilities to women, if they have the skills, to show a potential recruit that they too can have career development.
“As a new generation enters the labor force, they do so with new expectations about their potential employers. Meeting those expectations begins with the recruitment process,” says Sitel VP Talent Acquisition, Lisa Shephard.